Industry peak body Leading Age Services Australia has proposed the Federal Government redirect nearly half of its $200 million dementia research fund to revive the axed dementia supplement.
LASA CEO Patrick Reid wrote to the Department of Social Services on Friday expressing his strong disappointment over the supplement’s termination and recommended $95.7 million of the $200 million earmarked for research be diverted to dementia care services.
The amount named by LASA is based on an estimate of 3,300 people living with severe symptoms of dementia and is a continuation of the $16 per day supplementary funding over five years.
In the absence of any confirmation from the department regarding an ongoing allocation of funds, Mr Reid said the funding for a revised dementia care package could come out of the dementia research initiative. The $200 million for dementia-related research was a 2013 Coalition election promise and was confirmed in the May budget under health expenditure.
Following the government’s decision to cancel the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement on June 26, some aged care providers criticised the government’s “confused policy position” on dementia.
In his reaction to the decision, Amana Living CEO Ray Glickman questioned the point of additional dementia research if the sector could not afford to deliver the care models developed as a result.
In the letter to the Department of Social Services, LASA offered to work with the department to urgently review and redesign the dementia supplement to put in place an alternative scheme from 1 August.
Mr Reid told AAA the supplement’s original intent to offer additional support to aged care residents with severe behaviours should be fulfilled. “We are offering to put our weight behind a review to make sure that what is put in place is appropriately targeted and sustainable. Other issues that have been raised around validation and demonstrating care can also be remedied within that review process,” he said.
Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Glenn Rees rejected LASA’s proposal to direct funds away from dementia research.
“We regard the $200 million for dementia research as necessary, long overdue and an investment for the future,” he told AAA.
“Although we appreciate the dilemma providers face as a result of the abrupt termination of the supplement taking funding from research is not the way to do it.
“We support the need to reinstate the supplement and to look more generally at the quality of care issues in residential care but we doubt the wisdom of band-aiding the current funding for residential care by taking money that’s needed for dementia research.”
Mr Rees said he welcomed Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield’s statement on Thursday that he intended to sit down with the sector to discuss options around what could be implemented in place of the supplement within the original funding envelope.
When asked to specify the “original funding envelope” and to outline when consultation would begin, Senator Fifield told AAA in a statement on Wednesday:
“The cessation of the supplement was not a decision the Government took lightly.The Government is determined to take the time required to get this right and avoid a repeat of the current situation, where flawed policy design led to a massive blow out which I, as an incoming Minister, had no choice but to address.
“Consultation with the sector is already taking place on how the Government can support people with dementia in a residential aged care setting.”
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